Some of the templates can be simple, such as in the words or letters that enable us to read and write. They can also be very sophisticated and multi-dimensional. We are able to recognise people we know well not just by how they look but also by how they move, how they sound, and maybe even by how they smell. When our minds receive fresh information, we automatically compare this against our templates, identifying what we are sensing to match this against the templates. This then dictates how we react to the situation.

We are able to do this very quickly because we can check multiple patterns at the same time, often bypassing the conscious mind altogether. This pattern recognition process takes place in many different parts of the brain. According to Professor Steve Peters, two, in particular, are responsible for our survival and success – Peters refers to one as the primitive, emotional mind, or as he calls it, the chimp mind, and the other the sociable, human mind. More of this shortly.

Few of us spend time consciously examining and questioning our templates and the evidence we have collected to support them – but we do know our views on a subject, what our experiences have been, and the values and beliefs we hold. These are all interlocking templates.

The good news is that if we wish to get better at handling disagreement and conflict, we do something to change our templates. It was once thought that much of how we are, how we behave, and how we think is totally ingrained in us in childhood and this, once engrained, could not be changed. However, advances in neuroscience have established that the brain is much more plastic than originally believed and can change throughout our lives. This understanding is the basis of most modern therapy.